I realize that an airline is not actually a destination. However, I felt tremendous anxiety before boarding and would have appreciated a review to allay my fears.
China Southern Airlines provides the only direct flight between LAX and Guangzhou. While a direct flight appeals to me, flying on a Chinese government-run airline did not. I had heard horror stories about the cleanliness, the food quality and the lack of service on this route, all of which run high on my list of important factors when choosing an airline.
But I had no choice. Our tour group traveled together via this route so I had to tag along. As we waited in the terminal to board, my husband and I struggled to understand the announcements broadcast over the China Southern PA system. I could discern neither English nor Mandarin, despite the fact that the attendants spoke both. Dread descended on us.
We had chosen to pay the extra cost of premium economy (formerly business class) for the simple need of having extra space for a trans-Pacific flight. We found out that premium economy passengers could also take on 75 pounds per piece of luggage. The extra allowance benefited us greatly.
Our seats proved roomy, although they did not recline to a supine position. Not even close. In the seat pockets, we found an amenities kit, complete with blindfolds and earplugs. We put these to great use and as a result, managed to sleep over eleven of the fifteen hours of the flight.
The food, surprisingly, tasted good! I had expected some indistinguishable brown mass of Chinese food. Instead, we received bistro-style meals served on ceramic dishes with real flatware. The prosciutto ham slice over a stuffed slice of papaya, accompanied by a chilled prawn, topped my list of favorites. For breakfast, I could choose either cold cereal or hot congee. Ever faithful to my mom’s homemade congee, I chose the cereal.
We also tried mulberry juice during beverage service. I never tried it before so I figured that if silkworms enjoyed dining on mulberry bushes, I would have to do the same. Mulberry juice, I found, tasted like a blend of grape and prune juices. I enjoyed it very much.
The restrooms needed a little attention because whenever I visited, the paper towels slot always had tissues in it instead. Tissues do not do a good job of drying hands. Also, I didn’t find out until after we had landed in Guangzhou that the aircraft boasted a huge wheelchair accessible restroom on the other side of the plane. I did use it on the way home.
Finally, when we landed in Guangzhou, the pilots received applause for a supremely smooth landing. The flight attendants did not speak much English, I heard that the food in coach tasted terrible, and the bathrooms did not receive a cleaning every thirty minutes like they do on Singapore Airlines but my anxiety about China Southern Airlines has disappeared.